Mental Health
is a Global Priority

We live in a world where 1 in 8 people live with mental illness.


How Common are Mental Illnesses Globally?

Although the figures below give us some idea of the share of the world population with each disorder, it is important to recognise that these figures are estimates and are affected by many different factors. For example, the prevalence of anxiety disorders across the globe varies between countries, ranging from 2.5% to 7% (1).

Mental illness is widely underreported in many countries, so the actual number of people experiencing mental illness worldwide may be far greater than the numbers reported here. Additionally, mental illnesses often co-occur; one person may experience more than one illness, and this can affect the numbers associated with both illnesses. For example, it is not unusual for an individual with an anxiety disorder to also develop depressive disorders. In 2017, research estimates that a total of 970 million people, i.e. 13% of the global population, have a mental or substance use disorder.

How Common are Mental Illnesses Globally?

Global Figures (2017)

Depressive Disorders affect 3.4%

Bipolar Disorder affects 0.6%

Anxiety Disorders affect 3.8%

Schizophrenia affects 0.3%

Alcohol Use Disorder affects 1.4%

Drug Use Disorder affects 0.9%

Eating Disorders affect 0.2%

What is The Impact of Mental Illness?

Mental illness can impact a person’s education, work and social relationships, and can cause disability. Some illnesses cause premature death and others are major causes of disability. ‘Disease burden’, measured in Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), considers mortality as well as the years lived with disability or health burden. Mental illness and substance use accounted for around 5% of the total global disease burden in 2017. Disease burden varies by country, as shown here, and in some countries mental illness and substance use accounted for as much as 12% of the total disease burden (1). 

It is estimated that a large share of deaths by suicide are linked to mental illness, although this is not a direct cause and effect relationship (2).

  1. Dattani, S., Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2021). Mental health. Our World In Data. [accessed 6 July 2022]. The data used in this article come from the Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network. Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 (GBD 2017) Results. Seattle, United States: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 2018. 
  1. Ferrari, A. J., Norman, R. E., Freedman, G., Baxter, A. J., Pirkis, J. E., Harris, M. G., Page, A., Carnahan, E., Degenhardt, L., Vos, T., & Whiteford, H. A. (2014). The burden attributable to mental and substance use disorders as risk factors for suicide: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. PLoS ONE, 9(4).

What is the
Economic Impact?

Mental health problems and mental illnesses have substantial economic costs for individuals, communities and nations. These costs can be direct, arising from the use of health and other services, or indirectly from lost work, social and educational opportunities, the effects of stigma and discrimination, and reduced life expectancy.

The global cost of mental illness was estimated at USD$ 2.5 trillion in 2010, with this cost projected to increase to USD$ 6.0 trillion by 2030 (1). About two-thirds of this figure is made up of indirect costs. It is estimated that mental illnesses will account for the loss of USD$ 16.1 trillion from the global economy between 2010 and 2030, with substantial effects on people’s productivity, finances and quality of life (1).

The work-related impact of mental health problems is one of the biggest sources of indirect costs. Although people with mental illness are more likely to be unemployed (2, 3), work-related effects extend beyond unemployment and underemployment and into workplaces themselves. It is estimated that more than 12 billion days of productivity are lost worldwide as a result of the effects of depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, at a cost of USD$ 1.15 trillion (4). The costs of presenteeism (reduced productivity while at work) as a result of depressive disorders are 5-10 times higher than the costs of depression-related absenteeism (5).

  1. Bloom, D.E., Cafiero, E.T., Jané-Llopis, E., Abrahams-Gessel, S., Bloom, L.R., Fathima, S., Feigl, A.B., Gaziano, T., Mowafi, M., Pandya, A., Prettner, K., Rosenberg, L., Seligman, B., Stein, A.Z., & Weinstein, C. (2011). The global economic burden of noncommunicable diseases. World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health. 
  1. Evans-Lacko, S., Knapp, M., McCrone, P., Thornicroft, G., & Mojtabai, R. (2013). The mental health consequences of the recession: Economic hardship and employment of people with mental health problems in 27 European countries. PLoS ONE, 8(7), e69792.
  1. Hakulinen, C., Elovainio, M., Arffman, M., Lumme, S., Pirkola, S., Keskimäki, I., . . . Böckerman, P. (2019). Mental disorders and long-term labour market outcomes: Nationwide cohort study of 2,055,720 individuals. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 140(4), 371-381.
  1. Chisholm, D., Sweeny, K., Sheehan, P., Rasmussen, B., Smit, F., Cuijpers, P., & Saxena, S. (2016). Scaling-up treatment of depression and anxiety: A global return on investment analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3(5), 415-424.
  1. Evans-Lacko, S., & Knapp, M. (2016). Global patterns of workplace productivity for people with depression: Absenteeism and presenteeism costs across eight diverse countries. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 51(11), 1525-1537.

Global Suicide Rates

Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year (1). Suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally, with more deaths due to suicide than to malaria or war and homicide (2). It is likely that suicide has more of an impact than we think, as deaths by suicide are likely to be underreported worldwide (1). For every adult who dies by suicide, it is estimated that more than 20 others have attempted suicide (1).

Deaths by suicide have widespread and lasting effects on family, friends and communities. It is conservatively estimated that 22% of people will experience a suicide among family or friends, or personally know someone who has died by suicide, in their lifetime (3). The percentage may be much higher, with some international research placing this figure between 50% and 60% (4, 5). People bereaved by suicide often experience a range of adverse health, social and functional outcomes, and are also at increased risk of dying by suicide (6, 7, 8).

Deaths by suicide are preventable. Suicide prevention and the reduction of suicide mortality has been prioritised by the World Health Organisation. Comprehensive and timely approaches are considered critical to minimise loss of life and the tragic impacts of suicide on loved ones and communities.

Illustration of a man and woman sitting by a lake conversing
  1. World Health Organization. (2014). Preventing suicide: A global imperative. World Health Organization.
  1. World Health Organization. (2019). Suicide in the world: Global health estimates (No. WHO/MSD/MER/19.3). World Health Organization.
  1. Andriessen, K., Rahman, B., Draper, B., Dudley, M., & Mitchell, P. B. (2017). Prevalence of exposure to suicide: A meta-analysis of population-based studies. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 88, 113-120.
  1. Feigelman, W., Cerel, J., McIntosh, J. L., Brent, D., & Gutin, N. (2018). Suicide exposures and bereavement among American adults: Evidence from the 2016 General Social Survey. Journal of Affective Disorders, 227, 1-6.
  1. Maple, M., Sanford, R., Pirkis, J., Reavley, N., & Nicholas, A. (2019). Exposure to suicide in Australia: A representative random digit dial study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 259, 221-227.
  1. Bolton, J. M., Au, W., Leslie, W. D., Martens, P. J., Enns, M. W., Roos, L. L., Katz. L. Y., Wilcox, H. C., Erlangsen, A., Chateau, D., Walld, R., Spiwak, R., Seguin, M., Shear, K., & Sareen, J. (2013). Parents bereaved by offspring suicide: A population-based longitudinal case-control study. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(2), 158-167.
  1. Pitman, A., Osborn, D., King, M., & Erlangsen, A. (2014). Effects of suicide bereavement on mental health and suicide risk. The Lancet Psychiatry, 1(1), 86-94.
  1. Wilcox, H. C., Mittendorfer-Rutz, E., Kjeldgård, L., Alexanderson, K., & Runeson, B. (2015). Functional impairment due to bereavement after the death of adolescent or young adult offspring in a national population study of 1,051,515 parents. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 50(8), 1249-1256.

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